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Carnegie Hall hosts SMC choir

Amanda Shropshire | Friday, December 2, 2005

Forty-five Saint Mary’s students now know the answer to the age-old New York joke, “how do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

The answer: lots of practice.

The Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir traveled to the Big Apple from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22 to perform in the historic venue.

Dr. Nancy Menk, chair of the Saint Mary’s music department and director of the Women’s and Collegiate Choirs at the College, has directed the choir in an ensemble at the Hall several times in the past 12 years.

“We provide this opportunity at least once every four years so that each student gets the chance to do this while she is at Saint Mary’s,” Menk said. “Each time we’ve done different repertoire.”

While in previous years the choir brought along alumnae to supplement the Women’s Choir, this year it was unnecessary as 45 choir members made the trip. They performed a total of eight pieces from contemporary American composer Gwyneth Walker’s “Women’s Voices and Orchestra” series alongside six other choirs and an orchestra.

The 220 total performance members blended voices and experience levels ranging from high school to adult community choirs.

Menk, who also conducts the South Bend Chamber Singers and the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra, said the Carnegie performance was extremely successful. She also said appreciated the unique opportunity to perform alongside an orchestra.

“The orchestrations worked beautifully, and it was a thrill for the chorus to sing them with orchestra after singing them only with the piano,” she said.

In addition to regular choir practices three nights a week – which were largely geared toward the Carnegie Hall concert – the women previewed their fall concert to the College before leaving.

To prepare for the performance while in New York, the choir spent 11 hours practicing with the other choirs – one hour of which was with the orchestra.

Choir members said the extra rehearsal time was not a damper on the trip, but made them increasingly excited to perform in the world-famous venue.

“This was my first year on the trip so I was nervous and excited,” said senior Lauren Condon. “My mom and dad came out to see me, so it was nice having people I knew in the audience.”

The show attracted an audience of 2,400 people on the evening of Nov. 22 – including the composer herself.

Condon said she feels accomplished and relishes the experience.

“As a performer, this was definitely the highlight of my career,” Condon said. “To be able to stand on the same stage as all of the great musicians of the past was just an amazing feeling.”